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Shimla farmers adapt to climate change, sustain their livelihood

ARCHANA PHULL | Shimla |

It is a perfect example of how the farmers can adapt to climate change for sustainable livelihood.Worried over the changing weather that started taking toll on their traditional crops like maize and wheat, the farmers in a cluster of Panchayats on the outskirts of Shimla switched over to floriculture and exotic vegetables in controlled conditions in 2008. They added to farm profits by setting up high tech green house for vegetable nursery production an year ago, all with government support.

“The area used to get good snowfall in the past. We saw few inches snow in 1991 and after that its only frost. With expert advice, we switched to floriculture in 2008 and then exotic vegetables in poly houses collectively,” President of Mahakali Flowers and Vegetable Growers Marketing Cooperative Society, Jubberhatti in Shimla, Ram Gopal Thakur told The Statesman.

The Society has around 50 farmers, including women, from  Panchayats including Dhamoon, Baghi, Rampur Keonthal and Chanog. It cultivates flowers and exotic vegetables like red and yellow capsicum, iceberg, salary and seedless cucumber, which are almost organic. It has an annual turnover of Rs two crore.The financial support to the Society was given by Horticulture Technology Mission for diversification to adapt to climate change.

“The shift has helped us earn better, avoid damage by wild animals (which was a grave problem) and excessive rain. We are doing precision irrigation,” Thakur said.During field visit of media organised by Centre for Media Studies, Delhi to DhamoonPanchayat as a part of media workshop on climate change, he explained that the hi tech green house for vegetable nursery production set up by state agriculture department last year under the scheme ‘Centre of Excellence’ (sponsored by central government) was doing well. The Society grows disease free seedlings in non-soil medium on an area of 560 square metres. It involved establishment cost of Rs 60.47 lakh, with subsidy of Rs 51.40 lakh.

“Sometimes we get the buyers for our produce, including seedlings, at doorstep from entire region or we transport the produce to bigger markets in Chandigarh Punjab and Haryana. Our produce is almost organic,” said the farmers. The success story does not end here.The Environment, Science and Technology department has been continuously advising the farmers on water conservation and proper distribution amongst them for irrigation.

“Apart from capacity building of women farmers, we have bene guiding them to preserve traditional seeds as well by cultivating crops in the open. This is essential to preserve the genetic base,” said Dr Suresh C Attri Principal Scientific Officer with the department.

This is bearing the fruit. The Society members continue with traditional farming of maize wheat, tomato and ginger in their remaining land on their own. Some have taken to preservation efforts by growing Red Rice, Kauni (a type of rice) white butter kidney beans and Tangnu (seeds), Koda (millet) etc- which are not very common now.